Truck shortage issues hound fresh produce industry - The Packer

Truck shortage issues hound fresh produce industry

08/21/2014 02:39:00 PM
David Mitchell

It’s been a rough summer for shippers and receivers. Demand for trucks and drivers are high, but the supply of both resources is lacking.

“There are not enough trucks,” said Lance Jungmeyer, president of the Fresh Produce Association of the Americas, Nogales, Ariz. “It’s been a very challenging year. On shipments to the East Coast, in some cases, the cost of freight was more than the value of the produce.”

Jungmeyer said owner-operators aren’t replacing equipment at the rate they used to, but that’s just one factor contributing to the tight market. Meanwhile, small trucking firms, which handle the vast majority of produce shipped by truck, are having a hard time expanding their fleets, said Kenny Lund, vice president of support services for the Allen Lund Co., La Cañada, Calif.

“To get loans, you have to prove you don’t need it,” Lund said. “It’s hard for smaller companies.”

And there’s no easy fix on the horizon because a multitude of issues are contributing to the capacity issue.

“Over the last few years, several regulations have altered the transportation and logistics landscape, and they have all reduced truckload capacity to some extent,” said Kerry Byrne, executive vice president of Cincinnati-based Total Quality Logistics. “Hours of service changes, CARB regulations and the shortage of drivers are several examples.”

New hours of service rules, limiting drivers to 11 hours of daily driving and a total 14-hour work day, took effect in February 2012, and the compliance date was July 1, 2103. The intent was to make the roads safer, but accident rates have actually increased, Lund said.

“It’s government at its worse,” said Lund, who added that regulations have forced experienced drivers out of the industry.

Lund also said that a 34-hour restart rule, which forces drivers to get two consecutive nighttime periods of rest, puts more trucks on the road during peak congestion times because it must include the 28 consecutive hours from 1 a.m. on the first day until 5 a.m. the next day.

“It puts more trucks on the road at 5 a.m.,” he said. “It dumps a lot of trucks on roads just as roads are getting more use.”

Reducing driving time from 12 hours to 11 hours per shift cut already tight truck capacity by more than 8%, said Doug Stoiber, vice president of produce transportation operations for L&M Transportation Services Inc., Raleigh, N.C. Stoiber said that if more drivers were recruited and more trucks were put into use to make up for that capacity cut, roads would become even more congested because the added equipment and drivers would be subject to the same restart restrictions.

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